January of 1974, John Clifford, a Los Angeles native, and principal
dancer and choreographer with the New York City Ballet, was invited by Mrs. Betty Empey, then general manager of a student company, "Los Angeles 'Jr' Ballet,"
to return to his home in Los Angeles to perform as a guest artist with this company, and to stage several of his ballets. This well-established pre-professional ensemble was directed by Clifford's former teacher, Irina Kosmovska, and Miriam Golden Zeigler. The performances were a great success, and soon several arts leaders in the community approached Clifford with the idea to return full-time to Los Angeles and establish what was soon
to become Los Angeles’ first successful resident professional
ballet. Chief among these visionaries were Mrs. Marvin "Marta" Holen, Mrs. Irving "Jean" Stone, James Jacobson, Victor M Carter, Charles Luckman, and John F. Kimberling.
Many attempts had been made in the past, even by George
Balanchine, Eugene Loring (choreographer of “Billy the Kid”)
and David Lichine, but it was not until Clifford’s return
that a professional company finally took root and flowered.
original board of directors, which Clifford assembled, was a broad
cross section of leaders in the entertainment and business communities
and the dancers were drawn from the New York City Ballet and local
dance schools, primarily the one directed by Clifford’s
former teacher, Irina Kosmovska. John Clifford was already a choreographer
of international acclaim (his ballets were in the repertory of
the San Francisco Ballet, the Deutsche Oper Ballet - Berlin, the
Royal Winnipeg Ballet and eight for the New York City Ballet)
and the “Prize Prodigy” of George Balanchine, so it
was with Balanchine’s blessing and help that the original
Los Angeles Ballet soon acquired eighteen ballets by the master,
as well as classics by Marius Petipa, Michael Fokine, August Bournonville,
and modern works by Deborah Zall, and Peter Lems. Clifford himself
created over fifty new works, including full-length versions of
The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and the great star, Alexandra Danilova
collaborated with Clifford on Los Angeles Ballet’s Coppelia.
Guest artists such as Alicia Alonzo, Gelsey Kirkland, Allegra
Kent, Peter Martins, Violette Verdy, Kay Mazzo, Merrill Ashley,
Patricia McBride, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Anthony Blum, Ghislaine
Thesmar, Michael Denard, Alexander Minz, Jorge Esquivel, etc.
appeared with the company on an on-going basis and brought the
best of international ballet to Los Angeles.
the ten years of that company’s existence (the company’s
board of directors voluntarily disbanded the company in 1985 due
to local infighting in the arts community) the Los Angeles Ballet
had five U.S. National tours, toured to the Far-East, Canada,
Mexico, and even to Saudi Arabia, and always to critical praise.
The company averaged over 100 yearly performances in the Southern
California area, and gave performances in virtually every University
in the Southland. Los Angeles Ballet appeared often on television
and in numerous major motion pictures and performed with the Rock
groups Chicago and George Benson. The company appeared with the
Los Angeles and New York Philharmonic Orchestras, and at the Los
Angeles Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Hollywood
Bowl, the Greek Theater, the Shrine and Ambassador Auditoriums,
the Pantages and Huntington Hartford Theaters, Lincoln Center,
Artspark (New York State) and established the John Anson Ford
Theater as a summer home for dance.
company’s affiliate school, the Los Angeles Dance Center,
had an enrollment of over 350 children and classes for teens and
adults. Dancers that were trained at this school include Damian
Woetzel, Darci Kistler, and Jock Soto, all current principal dancers
with the New York City Ballet. Mr. Woetzel was first seen as a
principal dancer with Los Angeles Ballet and Ms. Kistler was an
apprentice. Other graduates went on to stellar careers with the
Zurich Ballet, Ballets de Monte Carlo, HET National Ballet –
Holland, San Francisco and Frankfurt Ballets, and other international
year after the first Los Angeles Ballet was disbanded, Clifford
was asked by leading dance agent, Gary Lindsey to establish the
smaller touring sized “Ballet of Los Angeles.” This
company toured from 1987 through 1991 and once again, always to
unanimous critical acclaim